- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. atomic agency board yesterday set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to disprove suspicions about its nuclear program, setting the stage for possible U.N. Security Council action if it doesn’t comply.

Iran’s delegation walked out of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors meeting in protest after the passing of a resolution containing the deadline. Iranian officials had warned repeatedly that imposing a deadline would aggravate nuclear tensions.

“We reject in the strongest terms this resolution,” chief Iranian delegate Ali Akbar Salehi said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately the sponsors of the draft reacted in total disregard for principles of multilateralism and did not entertain our amendments.”

The resolution, submitted by Australia, Canada and Japan, calls on Iran to “provide accelerated cooperation” with agency efforts to clear up Tehran’s nuclear question marks.

The board approved the resolution without a vote, diplomats said. But the measure had the support of the United States, and more than 20 members of the 35-nation board had indicated they would vote in favor.

Mr. Salehi said the resolution reflected territorial designs on the part of the United States.

“At present, nothing pervades their appetite for vengeance short of confrontation and war,” his statement said. “It is no secret that the current U.S. administration, or at least its influential circle, entertains the idea of invasion of yet another territory, as they aim to re-engineer and reshape the entire Middle East region.”

Mr. Salehi said Iran would review its cooperation with the U.N. agency in light of the resolution.

Chief U.S. delegate Kenneth Brill said that decision alone is cause for concern.

“I think that suggests they have something to hide that they do not want to come to light,” he said.

The resolution urged Iran to “ensure there are no further failures” in reporting obligations and called on it to “suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material” into a facility where IAEA inspectors found traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium.

The resolution did not threaten any consequences, but diplomats at the meeting said Security Council involvement appeared likely if the next board meeting in November finds the Iranians are not cooperating. The Security Council could call for sanctions if it finds Iran is violating the resolution.

The United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of working on a secret nuclear-weapons program and violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They had pushed for a resolution declaring Iran in noncompliance with the treaty but didn’t have enough backing.

Among the IAEA’s key concerns, spelled out in a report to the board, was that traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium were found at an Iranian nuclear facility in southern Natanz. The report also said Iran conducted tests that made little sense unless the country was pursuing nuclear weapons.

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